Friday, February 23, 2007

Heathy Habits Mega Trend: A Tidbit from Store Expo 2006

Tony Schiano, President and CEO of Giant Food Stores, offered some interesting points about Health and Wellness while I was at the Store Expo and TREX conferences in New York City in December. He noted that healthy eating, exercise, and so on are NOT just a fad, but a trend that is continuing to take hold.

Unfortunately, barriers exist that keep us (the consumers) from being as healthy as we’d like: Shortage of time, higher costs of healthy eating, and lack of knowledge about products, and so on.

Giant’s research suggests that consumers need simplicity, guidance, and choices that match their needs and desires of leading a healthy lifestyle. As retailers, this means potential for increased success in health-related categories when we:
  • Offer better information.
  • Sort out conflicting information.
  • Provide customers value related to leading a healthy lifestyle (e.g., a promotion that package healthy lifestyle items—a yoga strap with the purchase of a yoga mat).
  • Saving them time.
This trend and the points above suggest that college stores should stock health-related products and foods/snacks. In addition, products and services that you can offer to help customers make faster, better, healthier choices should be benificial to your customers and your bottom line.

If you missed the NACS Campus Marketplace article about other trends and issues of note from the 2006 Store Expo and TREX event, NACS members can check out the CM article at

Tony Ellis, CAE
NACS Director of Education

Friday, February 16, 2007

The Shrinking of America

America is shrinking, downsizing, small sizing, minimalized. Don’t believe me? Believe the reports on Weight gain and the fattening of the population? Think that we are all getting huge and obese? Huh. Go shopping for clothes.

From jeans to jackets to t's to sweats the sizing of clothes has reduced drastically in the last few years. Those teeny lil t’s you see clinging to the hanger have shrunken. I'm sure of it. I confirmed this a few months back when I shopped at Tristan and America. There amongst the racks was the perfect shirt for me, perfect for my weekend and would go amazing with my new form fitted denim. Imagine as I saunter to the change room, large shirt tucked under my arm only to fling it across the change room door demanding an XL. And the perky size zero sales clerk flings back and asks – you want the XXL? We have that too and that might fit you!

Or the Abercrombie visit. Looking for a shirt for my female cousin. Knowing her size and wondering – why oh why do these t’s look like they will only fit 12 year olds?

Or the product in my store, shrinking each season. Smaller and smaller and smaller. Lilipudlian in size. I can only hope that Pete Dougherty and Kate Moss wanna campus sweatshirt.
It’s the style of course and the profits. Why make a small a small when a teen size will do? And of course the styling. All chest hugging, body wrapping, body definition trendiness makes purchasing clothes a definite ego shattering chore. Wait it out, I say. Eventually the baggy sweatshirt will be back. The oversized T will return with a vengeance and all will be well in the world……At least I can go back to wearing a medium again….

Mark Patten
MacEwan Bookstores

Thursday, February 08, 2007

The Gap at the end of the road.

Poor “the Gap”. You know the Gap. The store you are your friends used to flock to for yuppie splendor. The creator of the khaki. The height of casual style driving out the boardroom suits for less suits more chino Monday to Friday in the office world. Marketing and advertising to die for. Photography by Annie Leibowitz – and then the ultimate in pop culture status points. The Saturday Night Live sketch with gap girls ordering the customer to “sinch it” with a sneer at the lowly gap newbie.

Fast forward to Fall 2006 and the holiday season and wha happened??? The whole bottom fell out. Sales down 4.3%. Desperate face ads imploring you to get funky – find the seventies – embrace singer Seal. Stores full of merchandise – crammed in the blonde wooden fixtures. Shoved in the t-racks – crumbled by the dressing room all for HALF PRICE – 75% off – CLEARANCE – SALE SALE SALE.

Slamming ANYTHING out the door at discount prices – buy two! Three! Your cousin will need four! Puhllleasseeee buy from us. It was frankly disturbing, unseemly, and desperate.

As January draws to a close the suspicion that all is not well in the house of Gap was confirmed as Goldman Saks was brought in to “explore all options” and presumably put the chain on the chopping block and bring a close to the Yuppie couture chapter of American retail.

So what can we learn from this? Well a few thoughts that come to mind:

Know who you are.
Not too long ago the wheels came off the Gap train when they lost focus. Were they selling to teens? Twenty-somethings? Boomers? Up to the mid-nineties Gap knew who their audience was – once that was lost, retailers loose. Never loose focus of who your customer is. To do so spells disaster and desperate buying with little consistency.

Don’t slice up the pie.
Lets face it. As soon as the Gap started opening Old Navy’s on every street corner flogging fun yet poorly manufactured product in cheap cotton with aging 60’s TV stars imploring you to buy the 9.99 jeans – someone at Gap shoulda wondered what would happen when you slice the market that way. Big surprise – why shop at the Gap when you can walk down the mall and buy the same thing for half the price?

If you don’t know your market – don’t hire a “star”
Gap “jumped the shark” the day they hired Madonna to star in TV ads – who was she appealing to? With her uber-yogisized 40 something bod bouncing on stage that was as likely to appeal to the boomer masses as it was to the teen boys and girls. Similarly, Sarah Jessica Parker was all sex in the city but hardly sexy gap.

You’re only the “It” girl for so long
Sometimes you’re in, and then, for a while, you’re out. Gap forgot this adage and instead of changing with the times stole a page from the Levis operation and just firmly refused to change. An angry, petulant “It” girl for years will bore your customers. You gotta stay with the pulse and with the customer interest. Otherwise, you’re the only Girl not going to the prom.

A Final thought. Last week the Tower City Gap in Cleveland, OH announced it is closing and will be filled by Forever 21. Another “It” girl is in the market – and she’s stealing Gap’s scepter... .

Mark Patten
MacEwan Bookstores

Friday, February 02, 2007

Finding Opportunities in the Most Obvious Places

I’m standing in Times Square and have to go the restroom. Normally, this would be worse than being three beers into a Brown’s game and stuck in the center of a row of screaming fans! But not so now that someone matched a critical need of the people (biology breaks in Times Square) with their core business (your bathroom “business”).

Charmin Restrooms—That’s right. I was in awe. I marveled at the two-story window graphics of the Charmin logo and “bears”. A great example of a brand that saw a need and filled it with a service that is tied to their core product and message. Not to mention the resulting goodwill and positive, prominent exposure. Still not convinced that this was a hit? I Googled “Charmin bathrooms in Times Square” and got 24,100 result returns—including a YouTube video of the experience so you can check it out for yourself:

The Charmin Public Restrooms are in the heart of Times Square, have a staff person to greet you on the way in, offer seating and entertainment opportunities, and provide ample, clean, and FREE restrooms. Oh, and did I mention that there’s plenty of advertising of their products? This was so good, I forgot all about the Naked Cowboy singing and signing autographs on the island of 7th and Broadway!

Tony Ellis, CAE

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Welcome to “The Retail Muse”

Welcome to “The Retail Muse”—the official blog of the NACS General Merchandise Committee.

A select team of contributors will use this venue to post information, ideas, effective practices, and commentary on retail trends, hot new products, merchandising tips, and other topics of interest to general merchandise gurus from the collegiate retail industry.

If you are new to blogs—think of this as an online journal. Each entry is called a “post”. All posts are archived and may be searched and retrieved at any time. In addition, this “journal” allows YOU to submit “comments” in response to each post—creating additional idea-sharing.

To enter a comment on a post, click on the “Post a Comment” or "Comments" link, type your comment, fill in the “Word Verification” (for Blog security), choose an identity for your comment, and click the “Publish Your Comment” button. It will probably be easiest for you to use the “Anonymous” Identity button. Just be sure to put your name, title, and store/organization (and e-mail address, if you like) in the body of your post. Otherwise, we will not know who you are!

All comments are moderated and must be reviewed and approved for posting before they will appear online (similar to the NACS e-mail discussion lists).

Previous posts and archives are linked in the left margin. The search function field is at the top left corner. To search the archives faster, take note of the "Labels" for each post at the bottom right-hand corner. We will use various labels for different types of posts (i.e., trends, commentary) and topic (i.e., fashion, promotions).

The Retail Muse will have new posts every 6-10 days…so bookmark it and check back regularly. Watch the NACS CM e-newsletter for occasional announcements of new content, as well.

We hope you will engage in this new online community.

Yours in retail….

The Retail Muse.